George Lindsey said he was Hollywood's favorite second choice

Lindsey lost out on a role to Nabors, but still made it to Mayberry anyway.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

George Lindsey was best known for his role as Goober on The Andy Griffith Show (1960). Goober is remembered as a simple-minded, good-natured character with a distinctive Southern accent and charm.

Although the Griffith Show character was a favorite among many Mayberry fans, Lindsey originally wanted a much bigger role. Before Goober, Lindsey was going for Gomer. 

He went right down to the finish line with Jim Nabors, who was eventually chosen for the role of Gomer on Gomer Pyle: USMC (1964). Gomer Pyle started as a popular guest character on The Andy Griffith Show during the series' first few seasons.

So, how did Lindsey go from coming in as a runner-up to working at Wally's Filling Station in Mayberry? According to a 1966 interview with the Birmingham Post-Herald, at first, Lindsey thought the world was caving in on his acting dreams. 

He said: "I really wanted that part of Gomer." Instead, Lindsey became one of Hollywood's favorite second choices. When Nabors graduated from The Andy Griffith Show to his own series in 1964, the producers of Griffith still remembered Lindsey. 

How could you not? His memorable accent, small-town charm and adorable smile. The producers called him up one day and the next they introduced him on the series as Gomer's cousin, Goober.

"He's a hit with the audiences because there are a lot of Goobers in the world," Lindsey said about his character. "I met one just the other day, on a trip back to my home town of Jasper. I was all dressed up in city duds and this fellow came up to me and said 'How do you get them shoes to shine like that?' I recognized him immediately. He was Goober."

This classic Southern boy was perfect to play the role of Goober, and some may argue Gomer, too. His impact as an actor was so big it led to him gaining the attention of the producers, and suddenly this second choice was given a second chance. 

The producers weren't the only ones to remember Goober. Andy Griffith Show fans rallied behind the character and led him to success. 

In a very small-town fashion, Lindsey said he only grew up 50 miles away from Nabors. Little did he know that his future competition for a part in a big city like Hollywood was just down the street from him. 

Lindsey said most of the actors playing the small parts were real small-town people who were attached to their characters. He was no exception. Goober was part of who he was, and the role gave him his second chance at success.

"I really wouldn't mind playing Goober the rest of my life," Lindsey said. "He's real, a slice of life. He may be the town dope, but he's a really complicated fellow."

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18 Comments

Bookman1963 5 months ago
Several years ago, I worked as a newspaper reporter in another life. The local bank was doing a promotion touting its role as a small-town bank, so they hired Lindsey to make an appearance and sign autographs. The local media was invited to have lunch with bank officials and Lindsey so that we could interview him. While working, Lindsey was a complete professional, answering questions he had heard thousands of times before and signing autographs without complaint.

At lunch, he showed himself to be rather arrogant and full of himself. I understand that actors, especially those who have tasted fame only to have it disappear, can be a bit much, but he compared himself as an actor to Paul Newman or Marlon Brando. He kept saying that Goober killed his career. I finally mentioned to him that several actors would have killed to be given the role he was disparaging. He kept saying he wanted to be known as George and not "Goober," although he signed people's photos as "Goober."

The only person I disliked more was Mickey Rooney.
wrs44145 5 months ago
The Gomer Pyle character was not introduced until halfway thru season 3 of TAGS and left at the end of season 4. George Lindsey won the part initially, but the Jim Nabors was cast after Andy saw his comedy act and liked him better. Gomer Pyle would mention his cousin Goober frequently prior to George Lindsey's on Screen debut. Goober was introduced on one of his first appearances as Goober Beasley but later he after that he was Goober Pyle.
MikefromJersey 5 months ago
I always thought Goober's trademark hat came that way from a store. My mom told me
in the 30's and 40's teens and very young men would jaggedly cut down fedora hat brims,
they were then called a "whoopee" or a "felty".
The wearer anticipated the hats would be catnip to the ladies, signaling they were up
for a good time and utter hunks, hence a whoopee hat.
Goober would have been growing up back then and for him to still be wearing that hat - and reading
comic books - was a way to indicate he is still a kid in many ways.
That's very interesting. Never knew that! 👍
royseay 5 months ago
Wasn’t George Lindsey’ first appearance on TAGS as a character named Goober Beasley? I am sure that is how Andy Taylor introduced him to someone. It may have been on the My Hometown episode🤔
cperrynaples 5 months ago
Strangely before playing Goober, Lindsey was on Twilight Zone playing a bigoted Southerner! Sorta Goober's evil twin!
LalaLucy cperrynaples 5 months ago
Yep. Great episode.
justjeff 5 months ago
It takes a SMART actor to play a dumb character... Jim Nabors, George Lindsey, Marilyn Monroe, Marie Wilson ("Irma" of "My Friend Irma"), Gracie Allen, Christopher Lloyd ("Jim Ignatowski" on "Taxi"), The Three Stooges, Stan Laurel, etc.
cperrynaples justjeff 5 months ago
Yep, and don't forget Art Carney as Norton!
justjeff cperrynaples 5 months ago
When I can't (or won't) list *everyone* that comes to mind, "etc." fills the bill...
harlow1313 justjeff 5 months ago
The great Huntz Hall!
CouchPotato19 justjeff 5 months ago
Ish Kabibble - Merwyn Bogue!!
Kay Kizer, the man who discovered Mike Douglas!
327053 justjeff 5 months ago
Loved Ignatowski character on Taxi. Christopher Lloyd is a true genius 😄
FrankensteinLover 5 months ago
I love Goob very fond of him, hard to pick a favorite but he's right up there.
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